February 6, 2013

CIA nominee Brennan, anti-terror tactics face review

John Brennan will be grilled on drones and torture as his hearing gets under way.

By KIMBERLY DOZIER The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Tighe Barry
click image to enlarge

Tighe Barry, wearing a John Brennan mask, takes part in a demonstration in front of the White House last month against President Obama’s choice of Brennan to head the CIA.

The Associated Press

John Brennan
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John Brennan


WASHINGTON - President Obama has directed the Justice Department to give Congress' intelligence committees access to classified information providing the legal rationale for drone strikes against American citizens working with al-Qaida abroad, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Several lawmakers have pressed the White House for more information on how decisions are made to target U.S. citizens abroad following the release this week of an unclassified "white paper" the Justice Department sent key lawmakers last year. The unclassified memo says it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaida leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans.

The official said Obama made the decision to send lawmakers the classified rationale as part of his "commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters."

Obama ordered that access to classified advice from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel be provided to Senate and House intelligence committees. Legal opinions produced by the legal counsel's office are interpretations of federal law that are binding on all executive branch agencies.

The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter by name.

-- The Associated Press

Brennan will also face questions about charges that White House officials leaked details of the administration's national security policies, including its cyberattacks against Iran's nuclear infrastructure, to burnish Obama's standing as commander in chief ahead of last year's presidential election.

The Obama White House launched a sweeping investigation led by two Justice Department lawyers in response to congressional ire over the leaks. But White House officials have defended briefings given by Brennan as authorized and backed by the president.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who has strongly criticized the administration's release of information on its national security programs, predicted "lots of questions about leaks and detention" at the Senate hearings, but he also predicted Brennan would ultimately be confirmed.

When Brennan joined the White House as the top counterterrorism adviser in 2009, he publicly decried the interrogation practices, saying they backfired and produced more terrorists, leading him to urge the newly elected president to stop them.

That represented an evolution from earlier statements.

In a CBS News interview in 2007, Brennan acknowledged the practices came close to torture, but seemed to defend them.

"There has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against the real hard-core terrorists," Brennan said. "It has saved lives."

Brennan told the intelligence committee in his written responses that "these techniques would not be used again by the CIA if I were the director."


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